RPGs: Gateways to Other Worlds

I’ve recently learned about the RPG blog carnival that happens every month on various RPG-focused blogs around the Internet. This month’s theme is gates and portals, so I thought I’d give it a go with this post. I’d like to talk a bit about the immersion factor of tabletop RPGs.┬áThere are many forms of entertainment that transport us to distant lands where we can follow the heroes on fantastic adventures. Whether the medium is a book, a TV show, a film or a video game, it’s great to escape from reality for a little while.

However, I’ve found that tabletop roleplaying games like Pathfinder give players a whole new level of immersion. Instead of simply following the hero around, the player really takes on the role of the┬áhero, controlling their every move. This is something that I’ve been reminded of many times in my recent sessions as a player instead of a game master. It’s not like a video game where you collect the important information from an NPC, and then hit a button to recite to the next NPC. If you make your character do something really stupid, there’s no save game that you can load. This is an experience that isn’t really replicated in any other form of entertainment. Games like Until Dawn are starting to mimic the concept of real and lasting consequences, but you’re still limited to a couple of options in most situations. In pen and paper RPGs, the only limit is your imagination (and possibly physics).

Tabletop RPGs also give both players and game masters a gateway to entirely new worlds. We get to escape from the real world for a while and focus on becoming a character who lives in a world that may be similar to our own world or completely alien. Like Alice going down the rabbit hole or the children stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, we get transported to somewhere new and exciting where we can do things that we wouldn’t normally be able to do.

In the Pathfinder game that my husband is running for me and a few friends, I play a shield champion brawler whose fighting style is heavily based on Captain America. Her alignment is supposed to be good, but as I’ve fumbled through the early days of getting to know her character, she’s done a few less-than-good things, like killing guards instead of knocking them out. She’s also made several serious blunders thanks to me: running carelessly into battle she had no hope of winning (yep, just like Leeroy Jenkins), messing up negotiations and getting the party thrown into a gladiator pit, and, most recently, throwing her shield into the ocean in an attempt to stop a fleeing enemy, then diving in after it and nearly drowning and being eaten by alligators (nearly fatal!)

From these absolutely stupid decisions on my account, I’ve learnt so much about putting myself into the shoes of a character – I can’t just say or do the first thing that comes into my head. I need to think about how the character would react in that situation as well. I feel these experiences, which I would not have got from any other activity, will help me in playing characters in the future, and writing them too.

What unique experiences do you feel you get from playing tabletop roleplaying games? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Header image from Pixabay.

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